What I'm Reading Today: Exodus 38-40
Last Saturday, I attended a meeting for representatives from local churches in the Northern Association of the Southern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ that was held in Atascadero (boy, what a mouthful!). One of the topics we spent considerable time on was discussing a shift in the way the United Church of Christ is thinking about the way it goes about authorizing people for ministry.
For the past several years, individuals who participated in the process were called Students In Care. The name implied we assumed those on the path toward authorized ministry were students in seminary who were preparing to serve local churches at the end of their process of authorization. Now, the denomination has acknowledged that not all individuals who want to be authorized are seeking placement in a local church. In addition, we are also acknowledging that not everyone who feels a call has attended/or will attend seminary. Thus we are exploring ways of acknowledging other ways people prepare themselves for the practice of ministry. Each of those changes is important.
There is one more layer of the discussion that I found even more intriguing.
In the old model, it was assumed that everyone who began the process of authorization for ministry was expected to see it through. Now, the denomination is stressing that the process should be a time for deep spiritual discernment. Therefore those who begin the process should be open to the possibility that at the end of their time the individuals may decide they do not want to be authorized for ministry. Therefore, they have renamed what we refer individuals involved in the process. Rather than call them "Students In Care" they will be called "Members in Discernment".
We were even told that this emphasis on discernment is something that shouldn't be stressed just for those individuals interested in the possibility of being authorized for ministry: that emphasis should extend to everyone in our local churches since – as Protestants who believe in the old Reformation adage of "a priesthood of all believer" – everyone in our local church has some sort of call. Our job is to help them discern it.
That might sound good in theory, but the question remains: what is discernment?
I usually describe discernment as the process whereby we discover our call (or God's leading in our life).
So how does one go about discerning one's call?
There are a variety of ways to do that. None of them are easy by today's standards. In fact, I wish I could have an experience like the Israelites in today's reading where - when God wanted them to travel, a cloud would lift from over their Dwelling; and when God wanted them to sit still, the cloud would remain over The Dwelling. If only it were that easy to discern things in our lives!
My question for you today is this: what process(es) do you use to discern God's leading in your life? For those of you at Woodland Hills Community Church, look for opportunities to explore the issue of discernment together in coming weeks/months.
Til next time …